June 20, 2001
Kiwis to Get LOTR First
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- If you don't receive an invitation to the premiere, then the place to be for die-hard Lord of the Rings fans on Dec. 19 will be in a movie theater in New Zealand.
By dint of proximity to the international dateline, New Zealand moviegoers will be almost a whole day ahead of U.S. viewers when the first part of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the Fellowship of the Ring, is released for viewing to the general public.
The Fellowship of the Ring was originally slated for Dec. 26 release in New Zealand, but the local distributors have now opted for an earlier date. "Because of our extensive association and involvement with the Lord of the Rings, we felt we wanted it to release on Dec. 19, so that the New Zealand public has the right to see it the same time as the rest of the world," said Susan Leigh from Roadshow Film Distributors.
The three Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in one 14-month-long shooting orgy all over New Zealand by local director Peter Jackson. New Line Cinema, which has bankrolled the films, is drip-feeding the viewing public the films over three years. The Fellowship of the Ring is out this December, The Two Towers will be released next December and The Return of The King is due in 2003.
New Zealanders already know that the premiere moment of glory for Middle Earth will be held someplace where the film elite are a more common sight than New Zealand. (When New Line Cinema boss Robert Shaye flew into Wellington recently to check on the films' progress, his Gulfstream III jet needed an exemption from city council noise limits.)
Nonetheless, Wellington -- home to Peter Jackson's studios -- plans to party this December. "What Wellington is looking at doing is building a whole lot of activity around the official launch here which might include some of the stars and so on," says Pete Barnao, spokesman for Wellington Mayor Mark Blumsky.
That the films will be released on the same calendar day as in the United States will be of great relief to fans. "I keep getting anxious e-mails from backpackers who are going to be in New Zealand over Christmas, and don't want to miss seeing the movie," says Erica Challis, who helps produce one of the big fan websites. "So some people are including the film as a factor influencing their travel plans."